Mixed feelings over unusual skinny house in downtown Eagle

Mixed opinions over downtown Eagle house.

EAGLE -- If you've driven through Downtown Eagle in the last several months, you've likely noticed it. 

It's hard to miss: an out-of-place skinny home on Idaho Street that is under construction amid an old, established neighborhood.

The homeowner got all the necessary approval from the city to build this unique house, but it's concerning and confusing to many people.

KTVB has been receiving messages from viewers who work or live in Eagle wondering about how this house was able to be built and why the homeowner is constructing it this way. Many folks say it doesn't fit the neighborhood. The design is tall, skinny and non-traditional.

"I usually get visitors every other day. If the door is open people come popping in a lot," the homeowner, Kittric Guest, told KTVB. "Usually it's 'oh, well this is really cool,' 'this is so neat', 'I can't wait to see the finished product'. I might get a dirty look every now and then, I won't lie about that."

Guest is building the home himself from scratch, something he says has been on his bucket list.

"Technically, it's sort of going in as a remodel so that was... to get approval through the department," Guest added.

But some Eagle residents aren't thrilled about the remodel.

"They're livid about it," former Eagle City Councilman and former Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Butler said. "You see it right now, it's just sticking out like a sore thumb."

Butler owned the property right next door until he found out about Guest's plans.

"We dropped the price $20,000 just to get rid of it quick," Butler added. "What Kitt built has no character at all. It's just horrible. It's like three shoe boxes sitting on top of each other."

Butler was also on Eagle's City Council when they amended the code that would - unknowingly and indirectly - allow for this home to be built.

A few years ago, the city changed their ordinance regarding residences in the central business district in downtown Eagle. Now, any additions or expansions to homes are considered permitted uses and don't require a conditional use permit.

This was originally to make it easier for a homeowner in the central business district to add on a room or a garage to an existing residence.

"During review of a building permit for an allowed use on a single-family residence, there isn't any discretion that the city would use to regulate the design of the structure," Eagle Zoning Administrator Bill Vaughn said. "As long as it complies with the setbacks and the height requirements then a home can look like however the designer wants it to look."

Guest's current home is attached to the new one, so he followed all the right steps.

"The plan is as soon as this gets livable, to demo that and skip that part of the step," Guest told KTVB.

However, Butler says Guest used a loophole and was able to avoid a months-long permitting process and avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars.

"This fellow just took advantage of that because this is not a home addition. I would never have interpreted this as a home addition," Butler said.

Vaughn says because of this home, the Planning and Zoning Department is hoping to reverse the ordinance- and soon.

"After witnessing what occurred in this situation I think that was probably a little out of the parameters of what people were contemplating," Vaughn added.

Vaughn says we may see the regulation go back to being a conditional use permit process so the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission could have a regulatory arm over the construction. 

"So at least there's a broader process that everybody can provide their input, along with a public hearing so property owners within 300 feet of the project are notified through a conditional use permit process. So then the neighbors, too, can have a chance to weigh in on it. So at least it doesn't feel, maybe, like such a surprise to everybody," Vaughn added.

Those invested in the area say this does not represent what they envisioned for the downtown core.

"It's an obtrusive house that's leering down on the neighbors because it's so tall," one Eagle resident, John Meier, said. "Why'd it have to be so tall and so skinny? So it's just kind of weird."

"He did good work. It's just the quality of the esthetics is something that doesn't fit into Eagle's plan," Butler said.

Guest chose to build his 16-foot wide house on Idaho Street because he says more townhouses are planned for this strip. He plans to split his lot in two and potentially build another skinny house next door. He expects to complete construction on the home by July.

"It would be my hope that as the rest of Idaho Street builds out - because the setbacks within the area are zero feet - that other buildings within the street could be built out to the street front," Vaughn said. "So hopefully once that's completed, it will have a good and natural transition down the street."

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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